Habits. These regular practices or activities often become so entrenched they begin to feel automatic. We do them without even thinking. Sometimes, as with brushing and flossing, this works out well. It doesn’t work out as well when the habit makes it harder to put your best professional face forward. The good news is habits can be interrupted. Here are three common habits to avoid, along with some tips for breaking the cycle.
Constant social media contact
Smart phones feel almost like another appendage. Not only are they always near, but we are always gazing into their screens and pressing buttons. We are motivated by the reward (brains love Facebook likes, Twitter, and games like Angry Birds). We are driven to constantly seek the satisfaction we get through social media interaction. But there is a downside…it’s tough to get anything done and productivity suffers.
Break the habit
- Remove the cues—notifications work much like the Pavlovian response in dogs. Once you see or hear a message or tweet it can be challenging not to engage. Try silencing your phone and removing notifications from your computer screen.
- Set predetermined times throughout the day to connect with social media.
Afternoon vending machine visit
The vending machine seems to call out to you each day at 3pm. Some days you aren’t particularly hungry or excited about the offerings, but you head for the machine anyway.
Change the habit
- Pause—take a moment to sit with the urge to head to machine. What is the trigger and payoff? In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg advises changing rather than breaking habits by identifying the cue, routine, and reward or the habit loop. Cues fall into a few general categories such as a particular place or time of day, being around certain people, or experiencing a particular emotion. To change the habit, create a new habit loop. Here how the new habit loop might look like: 3pm (cue), share a laugh with a coworker you enjoy or step outside and feel the breeze (routine), feel lighter and more focused (reward). When the brain begins to connect the routine and reward, you’ll have a new habit. That’s because what fires together wires together.
According to Bindertek founder Steven J. Schwartz, the average business professional spends about six weeks a year searching for misplaced documents. Disorganization costs time and causes frustration. It is also completely avoidable.
Break the habit
- Invest in appropriate, time-saving supplies. Bindertek has everything you need from binders to desk organizers, file drawers and desk carousels.
- Slow down—sounds counter-intuitive, but sometimes you have to slow down in order to go forward faster. Take a moment to organize your desk in a manner that makes sense for the way you work. Designate a place for everything and take the time to return everything to that place after use.
It takes time to break or change an old habit, so don’t be discouraged. Pat yourself on the back when you do well and encourage yourself when you don’t. Keep trying with different rewards and soon your brain will develop new neural pathways the make your new behavior…a habit.